Astronaut Thomas Pesquet returns to Earth after six months in orbit

(Washington) Astronaut Thomas Pesquet successfully concluded his second space mission Monday evening, after a successful landing off the coast of Florida, on his way to Europe where a long period of gravity rehabilitation awaits.


Written by Lucy Obourg and Juliette Collin
France media agency

Eight hours after its exit from the International Space Station at an altitude of 400 km, the SpaceX Dragon capsule, which was carrying three other astronauts (two Americans and a Japanese), descended towards Earth, slowed by the atmosphere and then with huge parachutes. It landed gently in the Gulf of Mexico at 3.33 a.m. GMT on Tuesday (10:33 p.m. EDT).

Due to the extreme temperatures experienced during its fall, it was lifted with the help of a crane on a ship stationed in the nearby sea. The hatch of the dragon has been opened, and the first photos show Thomas Pesquet, still sitting on the plane in his spacesuit, waving his thumb up.

Then the astronauts were ejected one by one, finally Thomas Bisquet. Like the others, it was first placed on a stretcher as a precaution.

“Thomas looked fine,” ESA director Josef Schbacher congratulated ESA, who recruited the French in 2009. “Our doctor and assistants who welcomed him told us everything was going well, added Philip Willikens, director of ESA Communications.

“full box”

This is the first time that a European astronaut has landed on Earth. Returning from his first mission in 2017, Thomas Bisket landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan with Russia’s Soyuz.

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On this second mission, called Alpha, he spent 199 days in zero gravity, during which time he conducted more than 200 scientific experiments. At the age of 43, he collected 400 days on the International Space Station, 40 hours of spacewalks, asserted Mr. Schbacher, praising the “tremendous success” of this mission, both scientifically and in terms of communication.

“We are in a box full! “I can only stress the positive media impact that his mission has had among young people,” said Philip Willikens of the European Space Agency. According to him, the “Pesquet effect” clearly played a role in the explosion of French requests received at the space agency for the 2021 campaign to recruit future astronauts.

With his many photos of Earth taken from the observation dome of the International Space Station, widely shared on social networks, Thomas Pesquet has awakened in us that part of the dreams, poetry and unchanging optimism that is part of the “space adventure,” Philippe Baptiste, President of CNES, rejoiced. (French Space Agency), which tracked nearly half of the experiments conducted in orbit.

“Proud to represent France again in space! Thomas Pesquet tweeted shortly before leaving the International Space Station. “Next time, the moon?”, he had launched.

Philip Wilkins replied, “Hopefully, the more experienced astronauts, who have already made two flights and were captains (eg Thomas Bisquet, editor’s note), will be able to successfully complete the rest of the space adventure, the conquest of the Moon.” No decision has been made as to who will be the next European to orbit the Moon, or even tread on its own Earth.

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medical aircraft

In the meantime, Thomas Pesquet will have to get used to Earth’s gravity again after six months floating in microgravity.

After a brief layover at Space Center Houston, he bid farewell to Japanese teammates Akihiko Hoshide and American teammates Shane Kimbrough and Megan MacArthur to fly to Germany on a French military-chartered medical plane. It is scheduled to arrive around 8 p.m. GMT (3 p.m. EDT) in Cologne, where the European Astronaut Center is located.

There it will be taken care of directly by the “Envihab”, a structure dedicated to the rehabilitation of Earth’s gravity. His physical rehabilitation will last three weeks, but it will not prevent him from meeting his relatives.

Then the astronaut will finally take a little vacation. The first was “several months ago,” he said Friday at a news conference. “I have the impression it’s been years,” he added, describing the previous mission as “very intense.”

Crew-2 is the second regular mission that SpaceX is performing on behalf of NASA.

Elon Musk has allowed the space agency to resume flights from US soil, after the space shuttles were closed in 2011.

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